Mitigating climate change, improving employee wellbeing and investing in agri-tech are priorities for UK farmers, new research shows.
Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank questioned nearly 300 farmers in December 2020 to understand how they viewed the future of agriculture, focusing on sustainability and the net-zero goals of the industry.
Almost a third of farmers had already completed a carbon audit, rising to more than 50% for the dairy sector. A further 18% said they planned to audit their farm in the next year.
Brian Richardson, head of agriculture at Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank, said: “Another element really present among the responses was the very clear vision towards an agri-tech revolution, with an impressive 56% of customers having recently invested in technology.
“Their focus for investment was around automation tools and precision farming, followed by a strong emphasis on renewable energy. The results showed that 63% plan to bring these types of technologies on to the farm in the near- to medium-term future.”
The survey showed that 73% of dairy farms want to invest in technology such as solar panels, GPS cattle collars, green energy turbines and anaerobic digesters.
Mr Richardson added: “The biggest priority for 86% of customers was the improvement of health and wellbeing for their workers on the farm, followed by tackling climate emissions.
“These results are very encouraging. Farmers have obviously, despite all the uncertainty, really focused on the challenges ahead and now have a clear direction of travel with sustainability not just being seen to be about the environment, but also working conditions and employment.”
Despite the challenges and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, 23% of farmers said they had diversified in the past six months.
Renewable energy, tourist accommodation and storage facilities were frequently mentioned. Other examples included wash plant facilities and farm shops.